Writing and/or performing the next James Bond song is always a herculean task for any artist. On the one hand, some of the finest tunes songs ever composed for film are associated with this franchise—Shirley Bassey’s rendition of “Goldfinger,” Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”—and on the other, there’s a laundry list of failures, some to an iconic degree—Madonna’s “Die Another Day” says hi. So recent musical sensation Billie Eilish and brother Finneas O’Connell were always setting themselves up to climb a mountain on No Time to Die.
And now we can at least hear the winds up there, even if we haven’t seen the vista in its final form. Indeed, the actual pre-credits sequence the song is meant to be paired with will be kept under wraps until the film’s release, but MGM is releasing the Billie Eilish song today. Below you can take your first listen of “No Time to Die.”
As a piece of music, “No Time to Die” is decidedly more wistful and even mournful than most Bond movies. In keeping with some of Eilish’s most popular songs like “When the Party’s Over” and “All Good Girls go to Hell,” “No Time to Die” embraces an almost funereal quality while building slowly to a classic crescendo.
With that said, it certainly mirrors some of the more popular Bond songs we’ve known from ages gone by. The groundswell approach of building to the chorus reminds me specifically of how John Barry orchestrated several slow build oldies. Also while the song was produced by Finneas and Stephen Lipson, it was orchestrated by Hans Zimmer, which might account for the somewhat old school brassy inflection after Eilish utters the film’s title.
The song also appears to tease themes and possible plot details that can be picked out of its lyrics. Eilish begins the song by crooning:
“We were pair, but I saw you there
Too much to bear
you were my life, but life is far away from fair
Was I stupid to love you
Was I reckless to help?
Was it obvious to everyone else
that I have fallen for a lie
you were never on my side.”
This seems to allude to what we saw in the first No Time to Die trailer where Bond’s relationship with Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann is on the outs and Daniel Craig’s retired 007 has grown not only bitter but suspicious she was lying to him. It appears for the first time since Casino Royale, a love story will be front and center in a Bond movie. At least the song suggests the main focus of the film is Bond’s distress about a secret Madeleine kept from him.
As for how the song ranks on its own, that is up to each individual listener. Having only listened to it twice myself, it is a few rungs down below the best songs of the Craig era, Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale and Adele’s “Skyfall” from the movie of the same title. With that said, I already like it better than Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die” (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall” (Spectre).